Senator sees oil industry impacts – Tester visits local oil well site

Sidney Herald Leader

by Bill Vander Weele

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., toured an oil rig site accompanied with two Richland County commissioners Friday afternoon.

“I wanted to see the impacts,” Tester told the Herald after the tour of an XTO Energy site just north of Sidney.

The senator noted he was in Sidney about a year ago after hearing about impacts, and those problems seemed to have only increased.

“You are starting to feel a lot of pressure not only from the Elm Coulee but from North Dakota oil activity,” Tester said.

He noted one of the things that he was surprised about was the amount of work camps in the area.

Tester said seeing the challenges with infrastructure, housing and roads first-hand helps him understand the situation better, and he will try his best to provide help, but he isn’t making any promises.

He hopes the area could qualify for bridge loans or perhaps assistance could be set aside for counties feeling impacts. “That’s just what I’m thinking,” Tester said. “But the federal government doesn’t have a whole lot of money available right now.”

Tester spoke with Sidney Mayor Bret Smelser about the city’s economic challenges.

“The key is for us to get on the same sheet – city, county and federal,” Tester said. “It’s more than one entity can handle.”